DENVER — It's one of the most noble jobs, but nurses are leaving the field in growing numbers. A Colorado healthcare system is trying to help.
Last fall, UCHealth created a new team of specialized nurses to provide mentorship to those working in a hospital setting for the first time.
Each specialized nurse is called a "CERN," which stands for clinical education resource nurse. The CERNs work nights and weekends to provide support for new nurses.
Megan Mines began her nursing career in 2013 and now supervises UCHealth's CERN Program.
"The CERN program is an additional layer of support that we've added knowing that nurses who are transitioning to practice during the pandemic experience additional challenges," Mines said "We thought that [the CERNs] would be spending a bulk of their time helping with technical skills, time management, delegation ... decision making, that sort of thing. We found that our CERNS spent a decent amount of time with emotional support for our newest nurses."
UCHealth's efforts come as multiple new reports indicate the nationwide nursing shortage is here to stay and could worsen. One survey found a third of nurses plan to leave their job by the end of the year, while another suggested the nursing labor shortage will get worse over the next 18 months. A report done by Mercer in 2021 predicted Colorado to be one of five states with the biggest nursing shortage come 2026.
"It was really hard my first year as a nurse in 2013 without there being a pandemic," Mines said. "I can't imagine how the pandemic compounded and was more difficult for our newest nurses."
Cait Bero, who began her career during the pandemic, is grateful for UCHealth's efforts.
"Just the amount of sick people, just the amount of trauma, the amount of people that didn't really get the best goodbyes," said Bero. "The loneliness that patients faced ... things like that were definitely hard. I'll personally carry it with me for my whole career."
Right now, UCHealth's CERN program works with nurses who are new to the hospital system's medical surgical unit, but UCHealth hopes to expand the program.
"I think it's really critical in this day and age, and nurses have been preaching for, you know, a couple of years now, how important it is to support," Bero said.
UCHealth leaders told Denver7 they're looking to hire 800 new nurses to complete their new graduate residency program over the next 12 months.
A spokesperson for National Jewish Health said they're recruiting for 14 nursing positions and, "have been seeing improved numbers and increasing numbers of applications."
Denver Health is hoping to fill its 238 openings. A spokesperson added the hospital system is "encouraged" by its ramped-up recruiting efforts and hiring of experienced nurses and registered nurse (RN) new graduates.
In a statement shared with Denver7, Centura Health said in part, "number of nursing openings we currently have at our Denver metro care sites is 455 openings. Accounting for anticipated turnover and growth, we hope to recruit more than 850 nurses in the next 12 months to join our team of incredible caregivers in the Denver metro area."